Thursday, March 31, 2011

Young Adult: So Shelley by Ty Roth

It’s possible that So Shelley (Delacorte) is the smartest YA novel you will ever read. The writing is sharp and edgy. The premise is intelligent and engaging. But the story? It’ll blow you away. So Shelley takes the most romantic of the romantic poets and reimagines them as contemporary teenagers. Think about it for a moment and you’ll realize: it’s not such a reach.

Debut author Ty Roth teaches literature and English composition at the high school level, so he understands all these moves: both the machinations of the teenage mind and the nuances of English literature. One could say that he’s studied them both.

So here’s the set-up: what if Lord Byron, John Keats, Percy Bysshe Shelley and Mary Shelley were American teenagers today? How would their talents manifest and their foibles come forth?

Roth attacks his topic with verve and without gloves. Sophisticated teen readers will enjoy So Shelley: the coming of age of this particular set of characters is not for the faint of heart. ◊

Monica Stark is a contributing editor to January Magazine. She currently makes her home on a liveaboard boat somewhere in the North Pacific.

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